Prevention and Treatment of Cardiomyopathy

Updated:Sep 20,2012

Senior Man Doing Pushups People who have cardiomyopathy but no signs or symptoms may not need treatment. Sometimes, dilated cardiomyopathy that comes on suddenly may even go away on its own.

For other people who have cardiomyopathy, treatment is needed. Treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy you have, the severity of your symptoms and complications, and your age and overall health.

The main goals of treating cardiomyopathy include:

  • Managing any conditions that cause or contribute to the disease
  • Controlling signs and symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible
  • Stopping the disease from getting worse
  • Reducing complications and the risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)
Treatments may include lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, implanted devices to correct arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and/or a nonsurgical procedure.

Treatments for Cardiomyopathies

Lifestyle Changes - Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to manage a condition that's causing your cardiomyopathy. These changes can help reduce symptoms.

Healthy Diet and Physical Activity

Other Lifestyle Changes - Your doctor also may recommend other lifestyle changes, such as:
Medicines
Many medicines are used to treat cardiomyopathy. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:
  • Lower your blood pressure. ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers are examples of medicines that lower blood pressure.
  • Slow your heart rate. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin are examples of medicines that slow the heart rate. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers also are used to lower blood pressure.
  • Keep your heart beating with a normal rhythm. These medicines, called antiarrhythmics, help prevent arrhythmias.
  • Balance electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain fluid levels and acid-base balance in the body. They also help muscle and nerve tissues work properly. Abnormal electrolyte levels may be a sign of dehydration (lack of fluid in your body), heart failure, high blood pressure, or other disorders. Aldosterone blockers are an example of a medicine used to balance electrolytes.
  • Remove excess fluid and sodium from your body. Diuretics, or "water pills," are an example of a medicine that helps remove excess fluid and sodium from the body.
  • Prevent blood clots from forming. Anticoagulants, or "blood thinners," are an example of a medicine that prevents blood clots. Blood thinners often are used to prevent blood clots from forming in people who have dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids are an example of a medicine used to reduce inflammation.
Surgery for Cardiomyopathy
Doctors use several types of surgery to treat cardiomyopathy.  They include septal myectomy, implanted devices to help the heart work better, and heart transplant.
  • Septal Myectomy - Septal myectomy is open-heart surgery. It's used for people who have obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and severe symptoms. This surgery generally is used for younger patients and for people whose medicines aren't working well. During the surgery, a surgeon removes part of the thickened septum that's bulging into the left ventricle. This improves blood flow through the heart and out to the body. The removed tissue doesn't grow back. The surgeon also can repair or replace the mitral valve at the same time (if needed). Septal myectomy often is successful and allows you to return to a normal life with no symptoms.
     
  • Surgically Implanted Devices - Surgeons can place several types of devices in the heart to help it work better. One example is a pacemaker. This is a small device that's placed under the skin of your chest or abdomen to help control arrhythmias. The device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.

    Sometimes doctors choose to use a cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device. A CRT device coordinates contractions between the heart's left and right ventricles. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) helps the heart pump blood to the body. An LVAD can be used as a long-term therapy or as a short-term treatment for people who are waiting for a heart transplant. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) helps control life-threatening arrhythmias that may lead to SCA. This small device is implanted in the chest or abdomen and connected to the heart with wires. If an ICD senses a dangerous change in heart rhythm, it will send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat.
     
  • Heart Transplant - For this surgery, a surgeon replaces a person's diseased heart with a healthy heart from a deceased donor. A heart transplant is a last resort treatment for people who have end-stage heart failure. "End-stage" means the condition has become so severe that all treatments, other than heart transplant, have failed.
     
  • Nonsurgical Procedure - Doctors may use a nonsurgical procedure called alcohol septal ablation to treat cardiomyopathy. For this procedure, your doctor injects ethanol (a type of alcohol) through a tube into the small artery that supplies blood to the thickened area of heart muscle. The alcohol kills cells, and the thickened tissue shrinks to a more normal size. This procedure allows blood to flow freely through the ventricle, which improves symptoms.
How Can Cardiomyopathy Be Prevented?
You can't prevent inherited types of cardiomyopathy. However, you can take steps to lower your risk for diseases or conditions that may lead to or complicate cardiomyopathy. Examples include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and heart attack.

Your cardiomyopathy may be due to an underlying disease or condition. If you treat that condition early enough, you may be able to prevent cardiomyopathy complications.
 
For example, to control high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes:
  • Get regular checkups with your doctor.
  • Follow your doctor's advice about lifestyle changes.
  • Take all of your medicines as your doctor prescribes.
Doctors may be able to prevent sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) if they can identify people at high risk for the condition and treat them with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. (SCA is a complication of cardiomyopathy.)

Also in this section: Learn more: Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Cardiomyopathy in Adults

 
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